Where can I bring a lawsuit if there is a Georgia resident and non-resident involved in the car accident?

People come to visit Georgia from all parts of the county, especially the south-east, so there are many non-residents traveling on Georgia roads. Car accidents inevitably occur between Georgia residents and people visiting out of town. So the question arises: “Where can I bring a lawsuit if I am involved in a car accident with both a Georgia resident and an out-of-state driver?”

It’s a great question, and there’s a relatively simple answer…., but first things first, we need to explain the concept of venue. Venue basically means the specific circuit, i.e. county or counties,  or if we are talking about federal court the judicial district, where a person can file a lawsuit. From a practical perspective, venue is one of the most important considerations in a case. Some places in Georgia are very conservative, which is good if you are a defendant, and other parts are much more liberal and tend to award larger amounts in personal injury cases.

For people that have been involved in a car accident with a driver from Georgia and a driver from another state, Georgia law has a specific statute on the books to deal with this situation. It’s O.C.G.A. 9-10-93 — PERSONAL JURISDICTION OVER NON-RESIDENTS (Venue). The statute itself is rather long and a bit wordy, but we should be able to boil it down to its component parts. Let’s give it a try:

Venue […] shall lie in any county wherein […]  the tortious act, omission, or injury occurred […]. Where an action is brought against a resident of this state, any nonresident of this state who is involved in the same […] occurrence […] may be joined as a defendant in the county where a resident defendant is suable.

So at the very core, this statute means that a non-resident can be sued in the same county as the Georgia resident. Take this example:

Driver 1 is from Georgia and lives in Fulton County. Driver 2 is from Minnesota. Driver 1 and Driver 2 are both careless and run into Driver 3 in Gwinnett County. Driver 3 can sue Driver 2 in Fulton County.

Keep in mind too, a Georgia resident can be sued in the county where the car accident took place, but that person has a right to transfer it to the county of their residence within 45 days of service. That’s a topic for another day though!

One other quick thing to point out about this statute. If the case against the Georgia defendant resolves, and the out-of-state driver’s case is still pending then the venue can change. Let’s look back at our example:

Driver 3 settles with Driver 1. The case can then be transferred from Fulton to Gwinnett County.

While this change may not seem all that important from a technical perspective, it has a very real impact on cases and should always be considered if the other venue is more favorable to your client.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read our blog, and feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about automobile accidents in Georgia. My direct number is (404) 566-8964 or you can always send an e-mail to me at kevin@patricktriallaw.com.